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AIR FRANCE

No Canadians: Air France unions call for French CEO

Trade unions at Air France called Thursday for the company to name a French chief executive amid reports that the board is set to nominate Canadian Ben Smith at the helm of the group.

No Canadians: Air France unions call for French CEO
Nine out of ten unions issued a joint statement saying it was “inconceivable that the Air France company, French since 1933, falls into the hands of a foreign executive whose candidacy is being promoted by a competitor”.
   
The statement appeared to be referring to Delta Airlines, the US airline which owns 8.8 percent of the capital of Air France-KLM, the parent group formed out of the merger of Air France and KLM of the Netherlands in 2004.
 
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Photo: Ben Smith
   
The union statement, which said the new boss needed “intimate knowledge… of the French social model”, said that the board was expected to hold a teleconference on Thursday to discuss the nomination.
   
The Franco-Dutch airline has been searching for a new boss since Jean-Marc Janaillac resigned in May, having gambled his job on getting Air France staff to accept a new pay deal after months of strikes.
   
Smith is Air Canada's chief operating officer who led labour negotiations with pilots' and flight attendants' unions ahead of the launch of low-cost operator Air Canada Rouge. 
   
Such experience might come in useful at Air France-KLM, which has suffered months of disruptive and costly strikes by French staff demanding better salaries.
   
He was tipped to emerge as the new boss of the airline by France's leftwing Liberation newspaper on Wednesday.
   
Air France shares have plunged more than 35 percent since the start of the year, although they have stabilised since Janaillac's departure.
   
The group this month estimated the cost of the 15 days of French strikes between February and June at 335 million euros ($391 million).

Member comments

  1. It seems that xenophobia and racism is alive and kicking in French Unions.
    When appointing a new CEO you get the best person for the job, wherever they come from.

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AIR FRANCE

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs

Air France management said Friday it planned to eliminate 7,580 jobs at the airline and its regional unit Hop! by the end of 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs
An Air France plane lands at JFK airport in New York. Image: STAN HONDA / AFP

The carrier wants to get rid of 6,560 positions of the 41,000 at Air France, and 1,020 positions of the 2,420 at Hop!, according to a statement issued after meetings between managers and staff representatives.

“For three months, Air France's activity and turnover have plummeted 95 percent, and at the height of the crisis, the company lost 15 million euros a day,” said the group, which anticipated a “very slow” recovery.

The aviation industry has been hammered by the travel restrictions imposed to contain the virus outbreak, with firms worldwide still uncertain when they will be able to get grounded planes back into the air.

Air France said it wanted to begin a “transformation that rests mainly on changing the model of its domestic activity, reorganising its support functions and pursuing the reduction of its external and internal costs”.

The planned job cuts amount to 16 percent of Air France's staff and 40 percent of those at Hop!

With the focus on short-haul flights, management is counting mainly on the non-replacement of retiring workers or voluntary departures and increasing geographic mobility.

However, unions warn that Air France may resort to layoffs for the first time, if not enough staff agree to leave or move to other locations. 

'Crisis is brutal'

Shaken heavily by the coronavirus crisis, like the entire aviation sector, the Air France group launched a reconstruction plan aiming to reduce its loss-making French network by 40 percent through the end of 2021.

“The crisis is brutal and these measures are on an unprecedented scale,” CEO Anne Rigail conceded in a message to employees, a copy of which AFP obtained. They also include, she said, “salary curbs with a freeze on general and individual increases (outside seniority and promotions) for all in 2021 and 2022,” including executives of Air France.

The airline told AFP earlier this week that: “The lasting drop in activity and the economic context due to the COVID-19 crisis require the acceleration of Air France's transformation.”

Air France-KLM posted a loss of 1.8 billion euros in the first quarter alone, and has warned it could be years before operations return to pre-coronavirus levels.

Air France has been offered seven billion euros in emergency loans from the French state or backed by it, while the Dutch government approved a 3.4 billion euro package of bailout loans for KLM last week.

The group joins a long list of airlines that have announced job cuts in recent weeks.

Lufthansa is to slash 22,000 jobs, British Airways 12,000, Delta Air Lines 10,000 and Qantas 6,000.

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